• If women were dragons: a study of the conquest of women and dragons in Ragnar's saga, the Volsunga sagas, and the Nibelungenlied

      Baalke, Claire-Elise A.; Harney, Eileen; Stanley, Sarah; Riley, Terry (2020-08)
      This thesis is a study displaying the connections between female characters and dragons in Old Norse and Middle High Germanic literature. The main associations that I examine are the ways that female characters and dragons share the characteristics of greed or hoarding, prophetic sight or supernatural power, and "monstrosity" or "Otherness." The fundamental argument is that the women and dragons have common characteristics which define them as dangerous and thereby cause the men or heroes of the tale to feel the need to silence or depower them through conquest. Typically, the dragon is the barrier between the woman and the hero in these kinds of stories and thus the dragon is violated or slain in a manner that represents quashing of feminine power. I argue that the dragon is defeated as proxy to the defamation or depowering of deviant female characters, non-conforming women who do not follow socially accepted gender roles. The texts used to present these arguments are The Poetic Edda, The Volsunga Sagas and its prequel Ragnar's Saga, and The Nibelungenlied. In the majority of dragon stories there is a direct relationship between a dragon and a female character, commonly a princess who is being protected or arguably kept captive by the dragon. I argue, however, that these characteristics of the dragon, which are imitated by female characters, can manifest metaphorically as well. In the texts considered in which there are no "real" or physical dragons, a woman stands in as the metaphorical dragon that must be defeated.